chapter  3
22 Pages

The ecological sustainability of non-timber forest product harvest: principles and methods


The harvest of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for both subsistence and trade is ancient, and remains common and widespread today (Shackleton, Chapter 2). NTFPs are collected globally and from a diversity of environments – from old-growth and secondary forests, woodlands, savannas and other wildlands, to fallows, fields and gardens. Over the past three decades, NTFP harvest has also been widely promoted as a strategy that can conserve biodiversity while simultaneously providing income to local communities (e.g. Nepstad and Schwartzman 1992, Panayotou and Ashton 1992, Leisher et al. 2010). The rational has been that, in contrast to other land uses such as logging, ranching, or mining, NTFP extraction allows for local communities to earn income without destroying the habitat. Since the 1990s, myriad programmes have been initiated by governmental and non-governmental agencies to promote the commercialization of historical and new NTFPs as a conservation and development strategy. At the same time, reports of NTFP overharvest are common in the literature (see reviews by Ticktin 2004, and Schmidt et al. 2011) and according to a report by the IUCN, overharvesting represents a major threat to plant diversity (Brummitt and Bachman 2010). Many protected areas have banned the historical harvest of NTFPs, whether or not there have been ecological studies to assess the effects. Indeed, the recent meta-analysis by Stanley et al. (2012) found that approximately twothirds of the studies reviewed showed that the NTFP under question was harvested sustainably from an ecological perspective.